Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All about Jaipur

Our next stop was Jaipur, one of the largest cities in Rajastan, which is called the 'pink city' due to the uniform color adopted by the buildings of the city. A moniker which is, quite frankly, wrong. While my observational skills are not always the must acute, I think the even the colorblind might agree Jaipur is most definitely the distinctly superior color of terracotta orange. Originally painted this color to mimic the look of red sandstone at a fraction of its price-tag, it has thankfully sustained this color scheme for about 280 years.
Keeping the 'Pink City' pink terracotta orange
We arrived in Jaipur on an overnight non-AC sleeper bus, stewing inside a glass vestibule that very much resembled a terrarium. Due to the aforementioned lack of AC, and indeed—oxygen in general, as well as the seething throngs of noisy fellow passengers, we slept little during the night until sheer exhausted triumphed, and sleeping became the only method of temporarily escaping discomfort.

Fortunately, we had reservations at a highly recommended guesthouse, that naturally, had lost said reservations. Not that this mattered at all—hooray for the low season! We checked in, ate a delicious meal—our first in nearly a day—and headed out to the common room to use the happy-making wifi. While Jon used the laptop, I browsed through some of the information stored on the hard drives of the shared computer. The first document I pulled up had some fairly useful travel tips for Rajastan, but it was nowhere nearly as awesome as the next document I pulled up. This appeared to be a history of correspondence between a male Indian national and a German woman. Taking places over a series of months, it detailed the planning of an Indian marriage between the two, the postponement of said marriage due to a lack of auspicious dates, and the inevitable request for 'nominal' financial support (i.e. 20 Euros a week) in the interim. I felt a little bad for reading it but not, because I didn't know either party, and who copies and pastes these emails to a word document then saves it on a shared computer? Really?

The next morning, we had planned to make an early start for a walking tour of the old city. However, for a multitude of small reasons and one big one (i.e. laziness), we did not. Fortunately, the area were ventured out to was the shopping district, which was situated inside the ancient city walls and consisted of a series of shared walkways. Without this respite from the blazing sun, we may have packed it up and headed home. I am relieved to say we had the strength to persevere. Strength which may or may not have come in the form of fresh lime sodas. 

Our first stop was Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds, which is phenomenal. Built in 1799 to house the Maharaja Singh's harem, it was designed to keep its occupants cool in the harsh heat of the country while simultaneously keeping Purdah—which is the practice of ensuring women were kept 'safe' from the gaze of men who were not their husbands. (Bleh.) I think the building itself looks remarkably like a terracotta bee hive of sorts, which is fitting because with all those ladies the Raj must have been one busy bee.  

When we arrived at the palace, we saw a couple who shared our fifteen hour bus journey o' fun from Amiritisar. After chatting for with them for awhile, it was nearly 1 before we properly explored the building with the assistance of our audioguides (<3). By the time we left the building—which it must be said was startlingly breezy—it had become face-meltingly hot. So we stocked up on some H20 and headed off to a second Jantar Manter like the one we saw in Delhi—its entrance was part of a combination ticket. 

Inside the Hawa Mahal

Jantar Mantar

We debated checking out the Royal Palaces, but decided against it due to its (comparatively) astronomical expense and the very blah-sounding description of it in our guidebook. The next stop on our walking tour was a minaret that offered spectacular views over the city and came highly recommended by our bus friends. It was a long, yet gentle climb, and both the views (and breeze) from the top were well worth it. Our intrepid explorer friend was a bit too adventurous, because he nearly plummeted to his death when he climbed out on the ledge for a better look.  We also caught some amazing cloudbursts.  

We let the market area a bit early with the intention of catching the sunset from nearby monkey temple; however this proved to be a difficult endeavor to say the least. Rickshaw drivers were only willing to take us there for approximately 5x a fair price, and we wasted precious time and energy haggling with them before finally packing it in and deciding to have dinner instead. Dinner featured an amazing ice-cream shake and a veggie burger with a side of six (!) fries all smaller than my pinky finger. Most amusing. We then headed back to the hotel, where we booked a tour for the following day to Amber Fort and Galta/Surya Mandir (i.e. Monkey) Temple.

Since our lunch/dinner was a bit on the stingy side, we headed upstairs to the rooftop restaurant for a bit more to eat. Although it wasn't the best weather, we had good company. We ended up chatting with an Australian girl who was traveling solo and in the midst of trying to emigrate back home with her Polish fiancee. (Needless to say we had a lot of empathy regarding immigration woes!) So altogether, it was an interesting night.

The next day, we were up bright and early for our tour. Our rickshaw driver was late and then it transpired he was contracting our job out to another driver. (Grrr....) While it was a slightly rocky start, we were just happy to be headed in the correct direction. After a reasonably short drive, we arrived at Galta/Monkey Temple, where we purchased provisions (i.e. peanuts) for the monkeys and the services of a guide (i.e. pseudo-professional monkey-shooer) before ascending the hill o' monkeys. To be accurate, it was actually more of a full on, proper menagerie of animals. There were goats, pigs, cows, and yes of course, monkeys. 

At first, I was slightly hesitant to feed the monkeys, as we've found the rhesus monkeys can be quite vicious. However, our guide/professional monkey-shooer suggested feeding a particularly obese monkey known to be “very friendly.” Whether his corpulence was due to his 'friendliness' or his girth simply slowed him down, I know not. But he was definitely a big boy. It seemed the people of Jaipur quite regularly fed the monkeys, which was good because there were approximately one bazillion of them, and I would imagine it takes most of Jaipur's resources to keep Mr. Chunky Monkey satisfied! 
Mr. Chunky Monkey:  "I remember when I was young and slim like you."

The views from the top were pretty amazing as well. After checking out a temple at the top, we wandered back down to head off to the Amber Fort. Which was amazing! Jon and I were really impressed with the amount of work it must have taken to build and its sheer size. The fortress itself is a bit more of a temple, with three inner courtyards that housed temples, a royal meeting hall, the royal residence, and a harem. (The harem featured an inside corridor--see below--that connected to each individual room, so who the Raj was 'visiting' could be kept a secret from the ladies of the harem.)

On the way back, we stopped and looked at some building out in the water. I think it had some relevance or importance, but I can't recall what that was. Then we were basically taken to a shop to buy stuff. I was annoyed greatly by this because we were paying far over the odds for the trip anyway, and we had our time cut short at Amber Fort because this guy wanted to make a commission. Yuck. We were dropped off at the Royal Albert Museum, which didn't house the greatest museum collection, but was situated in a really interesting building.

We then headed home to figure out our plans for the following day. After some consideration, we decided to stop at Pushkar—our friends from the bus said it came highly recommended and it was on the path to Jodhpur. If we didn't like the city, we figured we could simply hop on the next bus out of town. After we decided our next destination, we headed up to the roof to enjoy the views over the city that came free with dinner. We both really enjoyed our stay in Jaipur, and some of the things we saw there were truly amazing; we just wish the rickshaw drivers were a bit more amazing as well.

1 comment:

  1. I love the photo of the sky and clouds. Can I have a copy?

    "Mama Z"